Knoxville, Tenn. – Zoo Knoxville is celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla baby, the third born in Knoxville since 2015. 

The baby was born between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 10, 2016, to 38-year-old mother Kowali and is estimated to weigh between three and four pounds.  Both mother and baby appear to be doing well and Kowali is an attentive mother.  Zoo staff will continue to monitor both closely and will only intervene if necessary.

Kowali and her baby remain part of the family group that includes female Hope and her 15-month-old baby girl Obi, female Machi and her 15-month-old baby boy Ubuntu, and silverback father Bantu.  Obi and Ubuntu are extremely curious about their new half-sibling and Kowali is patiently allowing them to see the baby.

The Gorilla Valley Courtyard will be closed to the public to give Kowali time to rest, recuperate and bond with her baby.  It will re-open as soon as Kowali seems receptive to having visitors.

Kowali came to Zoo Knoxville in 2013 from Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. She is an experienced mother, having given birth to five previous offspring.  In late 2015, the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Gorilla Species Survival Plan issued a breeding recommendation for Bantu and Kowali. 

Western lowland gorillas are native to the rainforests of equatorial Africa. While the decline in their numbers can be attributed to habitat loss and commercial hunting, outbreaks of the Ebola virus have been having significant impact on the population since the early 1980’s.  Western lowland gorillas are classified as a Critically Endangered species by the ICUN Redlist of Endangered Species, which is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.  There are an estimated 100,000 left in their native habitats of Africa.  Zoo Knoxville works with other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as part of the conservation efforts of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages the breeding and social placement of all gorillas in the U.S. and is working to save gorillas from extinction.

Zoo Knoxville is a nonprofit entity situated on 53 wooded acres just east of downtown Knoxville. Zoo Knoxville features exhibits of wild animals in natural habitats and is world renowned for its efforts in conservation and species survival. Zoo Knoxville is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Knoxville’s largest attraction, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Currently, the zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.  Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. For more information visit